Quick Thought #15 – Stigma Around Mental Health Issues May be Lessening During COVID-19, but Will it Stay That Way?

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You may have seen someone talking about this on social media, or in an article online, or somewhere else. I’ve seen it in numerous places. The idea is that, right now, with a pandemic, racial justice issues, and everything else that we are dealing with, suddenly talking about anxiety and depression, or being lonely and isolated is leading to mental health issues. Employers are showing some real concern for employees and their mental health, trying to be flexible on supporting employees and helping them deal with the challenges that they are all being faced right now.

No, this isn’t happening everywhere, but it’s much more common than it was 4-5 months ago.

It would seem as if COVID19 and everything else we’re dealing with has, finally, been the thing that has brought the reality of mental health into the limelight. Simply put, there are likely more people feeling overwhelmed and like maybe their mental health isn’t 100% on point right now, than there are who aren’t feeling that.

Suddenly, it’s normal to be struggling.

And, that’s the part that scares me. I fear that many people, who don’t understand mental health issues, see this time as unique. Of course, during a pandemic, violence, social upheaval, etc. it’s normal to feel overwhelmed, anxious, maybe even depressed, but once this is over, I suspect many of those same people will go right back to asking someone dealing with these same struggles “What do you have to be depressed about?”

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The thing is, right now we see a clear cause and effect when it comes to our struggles. There’s a worldwide pandemic going on with no end in sight. The natural response to that is to feel anxious and overwhelmed. Not to diminish those struggles, they are real, and difficult, but not all mental health issues have that same straight line cause and affect. Lots of people had have these mental health issues, and many, many others, with no clear “reason” for it. But they are just as real, and just as difficult.

So yes, I’m glad the world is taking mental health very seriously right now, but it shouldn’t only be a priority during a pandemic. We needed to stop stigmatizing mental health issues long before we had a pandemic. Hopefully this isn’t just a temporary reprieve against some mental health issues tied to current events, because there are too many people who’ve been dealing with stigma for their own issues for years. They deserve better.

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